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A primary route to economic wellbeing

What do young children think of entrepreneurs? Carolyn O'Grady meets some Year 6 pupils who are learning about the business world

Year 6 pupils at Davies Lane School in Waltham Forest are looking at a range of photos of people of all ages and ethnicities. They have been asked to judge who is not the entrepreneur. Quickly dismissed is an elderly man, followed closely by an elderly woman and a younger Asian woman. The pupils have got it wrong - these are all entrepreneurs.

It's the young man with the suit and tie and steely look who's not - he works in a bank. The lesson is one in a new one-day workshop for primary schools on business launched by YoungBiz UK, a company founded in the US which specialises in teaching financial, business and entrepreneurial skills to young people. Also available is a workshop on money - where it comes from, how to earn it, how to budget, the benefits of saving and the perils of debt.

"We felt there was a need in primary schools," says YoungBiz teacher, Rachel Green. "We are finding that primary children are much more willing to have a go than their secondary counterparts. They want to be business people and they're full of ideas and creative thinking."

Headteacher Amanda Horsfall Turner has invited the team in as part of a Year 6 after-Sats project to meet the Every Child Matters initiative on achieving economic wellbeing. The children have designed T-shirts which they plan to sell to raise money for ChildLine. The workshop is a way of giving them the skills to enable them to decide how to do this effectively.

Later, Rachel introduces the children to a variety of objects. First is a sponge. "How would you make money using this?" she asks. Washing cars, for bathing, in art, for printing come the replies. The list of objects includes a cup and a banana. Children go into groups to come up with ideas, relaying these to the whole class later on.

A session on competition begins with a discussion on football: "Why does Sven need to know his competition?" she asks. "To judge them and their weaknesses," comes the reply.

The children then split into four groups for a complicated but plainly enjoyable role play. Three are companies selling mobile phones and the fourth is the evaluating body. Given individual roles, for example, an apathetic salesgirl, and a description of the deal they have on offer, they each try to sell their product to the fourth group, who assess the deal, the level of services and other aspects of the company's performance.

Later, with knowledge of their competitors' deals, they are allowed to alter the terms of their promotion and upgrade their service. The evaluators assess their performance and come up with a winner.

In a session on ethics, the children are first shown various headlines about companies which have badly messed up. Mistakes include faulty chocolate eggs and trainers with soles that became detached.

The groups are then given different moral dilemmas to confront. For example, an antiques company discovers that a supplier has been passing on stolen goods and a chemical company finds that harmful chemicals from its plant have been leaking into the water supply. Groups vary in their response: some want to come clean immediately, others to cover up. Each group has to undergo cross-examination from the rest of the class, when the consequences of their actions are pointed out. The children clearly find a game called Family Business absorbing - on a baking hot afternoon they are full of life. Given a sum of money, they work out the costs of running a business, including advertising and insurance, and then play a game that throws up situations to test their foresight and business acumen. So an employee might be injured on the premises, which might have a catastrophic effect on the budget.

The day ends with a look at how to sell their own real product, the ChildLine T-shirt.

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